Cowboys' Scandrick back early with drug agreement

In this Aug. 28, 2014 photo, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick warms up before a NFL preseason football game against the Denver Broncos in Arlington, Texas. Scandrick will be back on the practice field two weeks early after his four-game suspens
Brandon Wade

IRVING, Texas (AP) Orlando Scandrick had to watch the Cowboys on pay-per-view from California in their second game without him, hoping a revised drug policy would cut his four-game suspension in half.

The long-awaited word finally came Wednesday morning, and the Dallas cornerback was back on the practice field with every intention of playing Sunday in St. Louis.

Scandrick just smiled when asked if he would be ready to face the Rams.

''Yeah, without a question,'' the seventh-year player said. ''Without a doubt.''

Scandrick didn't leave his home in the Los Angeles area over the weekend because he figured the players and the league still had some details to work out on a revised policy for performance-enhancing drugs. He was back in the Dallas area this week, waiting a couple of days longer than he thought.

''If I would have had my way, I wouldn't have missed any games and this would have gotten handled in August,'' Scandrick said, referring to ongoing discussions over changes to the drug policy. ''I'm just thankful. Those were things that were out of my hands, and I'm excited to come back.''

Scandrick acknowledged testing positive for a banned stimulant after a vacation in Mexico during the offseason, although he said he didn't know he was taking a drug that included anything on the league's list of performance enhancers.

The 27-year-old Scandrick went through training camp knowing he would probably miss the first part of the season. His appeal was turned down while the team was still in California, so the Cowboys adjusted by giving him extra playing time in preseason games.

''Coach (Jason) Garrett was very upset with me, but he handled me like a family member,'' Scandrick said. ''He was disappointed in me but he guided me through the process. He supported me through the process. The same with my teammates.''

If he was upset a few months ago, Garrett sounded like he was over it when he got to welcome Scandrick back.

''He was very forthcoming with me in our conversations, taking full responsibility for the situation and also just came to work,'' Garrett said. ''I thought the challenge for somebody like that in this kind of a situation is what they do every day in practice in training camp and throughout the preseason, understanding they aren't going to be part of the first part of the season. But he came to work. He got better as a player.''

Scandrick started a career-high 15 games last year and is likely to resume that role alongside Brandon Carr. The question is what will happen with Morris Claiborne and Sterling Moore.

Claiborne is a former top 10 pick who missed six games last year and is trying to re-establish himself as a starter, while Moore was solid filling in for Scandrick the first two weeks.

Either way, a Dallas defense that has exceeded expectations the first two games will have more depth at cornerback, and earlier than anticipated, compared to last year's unit that gave up the third-most yards in league history.

''Sterling has done a good job, but there is a body of work that Orlando Scandrick has with our team that we feel really good about,'' Garrett said. ''You can't have enough corners on your team. We've found that out before.''

Scandrick has always played with a something-to-prove edge as a fifth-round pick out of Boise State in 2008. Now there's a new element to his game - making up for lost time.

''My stat line says zero, zero, zero, zero and zero,'' Scandrick said. ''At the end of the season, nobody is going to go back and say, `He missed two games. That's why he didn't make that many plays.' So I've got some work to do, some catching up.''

Just not as much as he originally thought.

NOTES: QB Tony Romo and WR Dez Bryant missed practice but were expected to return Thursday. Romo had stiffness in his surgically repaired back but said it was a routine day off. Bryant injured his right shoulder against Tennessee but stayed in the game. ... LB Rolando McClain (groin) missed practice and wasn't expected back Thursday. LB Justin Durant is missing at least two games with a similar injury. ... Rookie DT Davon Coleman injured a knee lifting weights Monday and was still on crutches two days later. ... RB Joseph Randle was held out of practice because of a concussion. ... DE Anthony Spencer (knee) practiced for the first time since microfracture surgery last October. He hasn't played since Week 2 last year. ... To make room for Scandrick on the roster, T Darrion Weems (shoulder) was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

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Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler

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